Earl Klugh has been nominated for Grammys dozens of times and has sold millions of records. In his lifetime he has recorded 30 albums, including some 23 top ten songs on the jazz charts. (AFRO Archive)

By Ralph E. Moore Jr.

Remember when you could hang out in a record store back in the 70s and 80s? I met my favorite jazz musician in one.  He was there with crowds of others such as singer Al Jarreau and piano man, McCoy Tyner and all of us were waiting anxiously for Stevie Wonder and his “Songs in the Key of Life.” But it was Earl Klugh who caught my eye that day in 1976 with the music of his studio album, “Living Inside Your Love.” Admittedly, I’ve never met Klugh face to face, though I heard him perform at ArtScape once. I first encountered him in the record album bin of a place called Record and Tape Collectors on Charles Street. He was in the Fusion Jazz section when I picked up a copy of his first album and read about his acoustic guitar. I took the album home, played it repeatedly and kept going back to the record store for more of his music. His guitar playing is nicer than music to my ears, it is serenading to my soul, like brotherly love at first sound. 

Earl Klugh was born on Sept. 16,1953 in Detroit, Mich. (something in the drinking water makes the best music come out of Motown). He started out playing the piano at age six but switched to guitar at age ten. Three years later, he saw Chet Atkins, the country western star and one of the founders of the Nashville sound, televised on the Perry Como show.  Later on, Klugh played on some of Atkins albums and Atkins reciprocated by playing on one of Klugh’s, “Magic in Your Eyes.”

Klugh made his first record, at fifteen, then played on wind instrumentalist, Yusef Lateef‘s Suite 16 album.  Closer to his choice of instruments, Klugh was featured on jazz guitarist George Benson‘s White Rabbit album and two years later, in 1973, joined Benson’s touring band.

Recognizing it as the Best Pop Instrumental Performance of the year, Earl Klugh and Bob James received a Grammy award in 1981. Klugh has been nominated for a Grammy a dozen times and sold millions of records. He has toured around the world. In his lifetime he has recorded 30 albums, including some 23 Top Ten songs on the jazz charts.

If you want to check out some of Klugh’s music, look for the aforementioned, “Living Inside Your Love,” “Heartstring” and “Crazy for You,” all recorded on Blue Note Records.  

Earl Klugh’s album entitled, “Finger Painting” was released in 1995. It contains my favorite song by him, “Dance with Me.” The song was originally popularized by a group named Orleans.  But it was Klugh’s jazz fusion version that inspired me to have those three words inscribed in the wedding band I gave to my wife, Dana, nearly 20 years ago.  

Dana and I had served on separate Transition Committees for then soon to be Mayor Martin O’Malley back in 1999. In appreciation for our service, 400 committee folks were invited to the Latin Palace in Fells Point for refreshments and dancing lessons one Sunday evening. Two salsa instructors stood in the middle of the floor begging folks to get up so they could teach The Salsa. No one got up but eventually lovely Dana Petersen agreed to get up and dance with me.  Once perfect strangers seated at the same table, we each danced with a salsa instructor before dancing with each other for the first time.  

Inspired by Earl Klugh’s 1977 song, Dana and I have been dancing ever since.

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